Martinique is special, a piece of France lying in the Caribbean. I was expecting something like St. Lucia, friendly but rough, pretty poor and lacking in social services, but no. Ah! Poor ignorant me…The airport guy gave me the check in Euros, as I came to realize I had forgotten the currency conversion in Europe completely. Man, I would have never thought my first coffee in Euros would be so far away from the continent…
So yeah, Martinique definitely is different from the typical Caribbean island. The people have compulsory school, hospitals and other services are at European level, the salaries are those of France which they call “La metropole” and there’s work for everybody. They even have a university on such a tiny island.
The street atmosphere in general is something else, everybody so polite but with the Antillan touch. I find it very charming. If you speak French, of course, because if you don’t, bad thing. Practically nobody speaks English, or they rarely do because the majority of tourists are French or speak it well enough. I’ve heard some Americans and British complain about “How rude the French are” but I guess it’s just the French character – if they speak English they’ll gladly talk to you for hours, they won’t even let you try out the French from your phrasebook. However, if they don’t, they’d rather let it pass as if it was your fault that you’re unable to communicate. Me, I can’t say a bad word about the French, I’ve always had a warm welcome from them. I find their sense of humour so similar to the Spanish and all the ones I’ve come to really know are now amongst my best friends. I guess our opinions depend on our experiences.
However, I do speak French, which is a big advantage. And, in fact, they speak Creole or Patois, a mix between French, English, some Spanish, African words and even some Carib from the original inhabitants of the islands. For me it’s impossible to understand, but they are teaching me all these sentences. One guy told me, they never speak Creole to a girl out of respect for her. Unless it’s somebody you know all your life. They talk to men in Creole or to girl friends they’ve grown up with, or they speak it with their wives, but coming on to a girl in Creole wouldn’t bring any positive results, the girl wouldn’t find it nice.
Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. I find it strange that you don’t talk in your own language because it’s offensive for the woman. I always thought words could be offensive but not a language. I may have to confirm this story with another local.
And, something else, if you plan to come, rent a car. You’re lost without a car, the public transport in Taxi Collectif (Taxico) or bus is completely unreliable. To go from Le Marin to the beach of Les Salines, the one where everybody goes, which is just a mere 10 kilometres apart, takes you forever, first waiting for the minivan that doesn’t come, then hitchhiking (the most popular transport in Martinique) until St. Anne, then till the crossing, then another ride to the beach. On the way back there’s only a taxico that leaves anytime between 4:30 and 5:30 (nobody call tell), they recommended to me to lay on the beach close to the fruit stall and listen to the claxon, although, “When you hear the claxon it’s too late, he’s leaving!”